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Strip clubs now offering a more teasing experience, with social distancing and face masks

Gentlemen’s clubs were allowed to reopen June 26 as part of Phase 4.

The Admiral Theatre on Lawrence Avenue
The Admiral Theatre on Lawrence Avenue is tentatively set to reopen Friday, July 17, after the coronavirus shutdown.
Sun-Times file

When the Admiral Theatre reopens Friday, the strip club will do so with a teeny bit of false advertising.

Strictly speaking, the women won’t be “totally nude.” They’ll have a flimsy piece of material draped across their faces. Sam Cecola, the venue’s owner for the last 31 years, isn’t overly concerned.

“The mask only covers her face, and many of the guests might not be looking at her face,” Cecola said.

And one shouldn’t overlook the ability of the human mind to “fill in the blank with perfection,” he said.

A visit to a strip club has always been something of an illusory experience — and even more so now with coronavirus restrictions in place. Under Illinois’ Phase 4 of the reopening, which began in late June, dancers and customers must remain 6 feet apart “at all times.”

That means “private dances,” as Cecola calls them, will be a lot less private.

“In the next couple of days, we’ve got girls coming in,” Cecola said. “We’re going to do a dry run with some of the employees acting as customers to see how we can entertain people and still stay safe.”

But if you’re not getting an actual lap dance, shouldn’t you get a discount?

“A discount? Absolutely not,” Cecola said. “We’re having a hard enough time persuading entertainers to come back to work wearing these masks and face shields and things like that.”

In any case, many customers come to the Admiral for the “conversation,” he said.

“Older good people like myself, maybe they want to talk to a young girl because they haven’t talked to a young girl in a social way like that for 20 years,” he said. “It’s almost like a psychologist’s visit.”

Cecola said he plans to bring back about 40 of his 100 or so dancers — at least at first.

Heavenly Bodies in Elk Grove Village has been open for about two weeks. Even though the venue depends to a large extent on customers arriving from nearby O’Hare Airport, demand remains strong, said Gigi Gayle, Heavenly Bodies’ public relations manager.

Everyone inside the venue must wear a mask, and temperatures are taken at the door.

But the thing that makes business a challenge is the 25% capacity rule, Gayle said.

“There are nights when we have a line outside, and we have to wait for other customers to leave ... and then you have to do the rotation of having them leave every two hours,” she said, adding that most customers are people who’ve been coming to the venue for years.

As for the masks: “There’s kind of an allure to that,” Gayle said. “Sometimes it’s a little sexy or a little kinky to not directly have to look at someone’s face.”